9 Cool College Start-ups

t-shirts, social entrepreneurship
Anthony Verde (still life), Portrait Courtesy Shay Spaniola
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The Bearon, University of Michigan

Last year, Caroline Rooney launched The Bearon, an upbeat T-shirt line sold primarily through her own website and independent sales reps on six other college campuses, including the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Syracuse University, and Northwestern. The 19-year-old is donating 20 percent of the profit from every shirt sold to three charities: UNICEF, the Alzheimer's Foundation, and New York City's Public Art Fund. For marketing, she maintains a page on Facebook, holds events with campus Greek organizations, and often speaks at assemblies and club meetings. She also maintains a blog on her website, thebearon.com, on which she promotes her favorite artists and photographers, and posts photographs of customers wearing her shirts in cities around the world. "It's getting to the point where I don't recognize some of the people who are sending in orders, calling in questions, or walking around campus wearing the shirts," Rooney says. "That's when you know the word of mouth has gone to the next level, and that's really exciting."—Caitlin Brody, Michigan class of '09